Leading Lost Volunteers

One of the greatest challenges that a church planter faces is the ability to recruit and train volunteers that can effectively carry out the mission of making disciples. Because this is the role of the local church as mandated by Jesus himself, the making of disciples is the end goal. However, many people have a distorted picture of what it looks like to get to that end and how people joining along the way can actually be involved in the process. We have found that the key piece in planting is giving people a place to play and serve along the way as they grasp the mission and learn what it looks like to follow Jesus.

In our early days, we were setting up and tearing down in an elementary school gymnasium. This involved hanging curtains, setting up chairs, creating kids space, setting stage and many other tasks. These jobs started at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings and were the last things done before people left after service. In addition to these tasks before and after service, we had people holding doors, handing out worship guides, working the parking lots and serving in media. In churches where most of our team had served previously, we held a belief that these positions and jobs should have been done by people who were 100% bought into the church and completely following Jesus.

That view changes when over half of your core group hasn’t been in church before.

We found quickly that some of our most faithful volunteers were not believers. Yet. Some of our best greeters did not know Jesus. Yet. Truthfully, we started a church where a majority of those faithful early on were simply engaging in a new community and in time they discovered the love, grace and mercy of Jesus. I cannot tell you how many volunteers we baptized months into their time at Awaken Church. We have found that discipleship and service happens long before the point of conversion. As leaders, we must create environments where ‘lost’ people can get engaged and play in the game. Otherwise, they will feel they don’t belong. So, with this in mind, there are five things I would challenge all planters and pastors to consider as they plant churches and seek to reach lost people:

Identify the ‘places’ where lost volunteers can play.

Holding doors. Unloading trailers. Running a soundboard. Directing the traffic in a parking lot. Setting up tables and tents. Greeting and hospitality. There are a variety of opportunities for volunteers who are lost to serve the church. However, we identified areas where we wanted believers and found that the worship band and kids volunteers needed to be following Jesus. This was a non-negotiable for us. However, we did our best to get people in the game early so they had a part in what God was doing.

Provide job descriptions.

People like to know what is expected of them. Be clear and concise. Identify three things you need from the person in the position. This will give clear instruction and also provide markers to celebrate as well.

Hold accountability.

If there is no accountability there is a sense in which there is no importance. People need to know that if they do not fulfill their positions, they are missed and something greater is at stake. They need to see that what they do matters and as a leader they need to know that you care enough to address it when needed.

Coach well.

All players need a coach. Coaches reward and coaches correct. Either way, the goal is to make the player better as they grow and develop. Volunteers are on a journey and coaching them is discipleship. Lead. Explain. Correct. Celebrate. Praise in public. Criticize in private. Remember the goal is to grow the player in their journey with the body of Christ.

Lead low.

Get your hands dirty. Get in the game. Do not be above taking out the trash. Load the trailer. Set the chairs. Show, don’t tell. Actions speak louder than words. Lead by being a servant. That is what our Master did. Follow his example. Volunteers will flock to assist you.

Ultimately, this is what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels. He had a bunch of guys following him who were trying to discover who this man was. They did not fully understand but they were in the game. They were given places to serve whether picking up baskets or relaying messages. And for these men, it took three years before they fully understood who their leader was. Jesus demonstrated the grace and love we need to show as we do the same to fish for men and see them brought into the Kingdom.


Brandon Bowers serves as the  Lead Pastor at Awaken Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @_BBowers.